Return of The Force: Special Effects for the Special Olympians

By Tony Kornheiser
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 19, 1980

Usually when a group of foreign dignitaries arrives in Washington it's a matter for the president or the secretary of state or, at least, a congressional delegation. But Saturday morning, when visitors from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away came to town, it was left to the children to welcome them, sort them out and receive their message.

On Saturday morning, at the world premiere of "The Empire Strikes Back," or, "Star Wars II," all the major stars of the film -- except Anthony Daniels (C3PO), who was bedridden at Sibley Hospital with what he called "some kind of blood poisoning" -- took limousines instead of spacecraft to the Kennedy Center, spent three hours eating lunch with, talking to and signing autographs for some 600 children, including 300 Special Olympians, then sat through the film hearing the sound an actor loves most -- wild, unbridled cheers.

"Star Wars," as we all know, is modern mythology.

To see the faces of the kids as they come out from the movie is to know, once and for all, that a myth is as good as a smile.

Star Worship

The Washington tour for the kids of Charlestown, W.Va., was supposed to include a stop at the Kennedy Center. But it was to be brief, and it certainly wasn't to be this eventful.

"When they found out the people from 'Star Wars' were coming they insisted on staying to see them," said the tour chaperone, a middle-aged woman who didn't know a Han Solo from a piano duet. "Forget the monuments or the Capitol -- this'll be the highlight of their tour."

"Is Chewbacca coming?"

"Is R2-D2 coming?"

"Darth Vader? Gee, will he let me take his picture, or will he smash my camera?"

"Are you writing about us? My name is Art Kegley. Kegley. K-E-G-L-E-Y."

At 10:45 the first limo pulled up, and it carried Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) and Harrison Ford (Han Solo). The kids went crazy. Hamill, who is short and cute and looks like the valedictorian from Walt Disney High School, waved to the kids and said, "Hi, I hope all of you enjoy the show." One young girl, her eyes glazed and her lips silently mouthing, "Mark Hamill, Mark Hamill," as if it were a mantra, ran to him and kissed him. Wonder of wonders, he kissed back. At this moment, though the rest of the kids are back in Charlestown, that girl is on Mars.

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© 1980 The Washington Post Company